Frank Vincent Zappa (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American musician, songwriter, composer, record producer, actor and filmmaker. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed rock, jazz, orchestral and musique concrète works. He also directed feature-length films and music videos, and designed album covers. Zappa produced almost all of the more than 60 albums he released with the band the Mothers of Invention and as a solo artist. While in his teens, he acquired a taste for 20th-century classical composers such as Edgard Varèse, Igor Stravinsky, and Anton Webern, along with 1950s rhythm and blues music. He began writing classical music in high school, while at the same time playing drums in rhythm and blues bands; he later switched to electric guitar.
Zappa was a self-taught composer and performer, and his diverse musical influences led him to create music that was often difficult to categorize. His 1966 debut album with the Mothers of Invention, Freak Out!, combined songs in conventional rock and roll format with collective improvisations and studio-generated sound collages. His later albums shared this eclectic and experimental approach, irrespective of whether the fundamental format was rock, jazz or classical. His lyrics—often humorously—reflected his iconoclastic view of established social and political processes, structures and movements. He was a strident critic of mainstream education and organized religion, and a forthright and passionate advocate for freedom of speech, self-education, political participation and the abolition of censorship.
He was a highly productive and prolific artist and gained widespread critical acclaim. He had some commercial success, particularly in Europe, and worked as an independent artist for most of his career. He also remains a major influence on musicians and composers. Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and in 2011 at No. 22 on its list of the "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".
appa was born in Baltimore, Maryland. His mother, Rose Marie (née Colimore), was of Italian (more specifically, her family was from Naples and Sicily) and French ancestry; his father, Francis Vincent Zappa, was an immigrant from Partinico, Sicily, with Greek and Arab ancestry. Zappa, the eldest of four children, was raised in an Italian-American household where Italian was spoken often by his grandparents. The family moved often because his father, a chemist and mathematician, worked in the defense industry. After a time in Florida in the 1940s, the family returned to Maryland, where Zappa's father worked at the Edgewood Arsenal chemical warfare facility of the Aberdeen Proving Ground. Due to their home's proximity to the arsenal, which stored mustard gas, gas masks were kept in the home in case of an accident. This had a profound effect on Zappa, and references to germs, germ warfare and the defense industry occur throughout his work.
Zappa was often sick as a child, suffering from asthma, earaches and sinus problems. A doctor treated his sinusitis by inserting a pellet of radium into each of Zappa's nostrils. At the time, little was known about the potential dangers of even small amounts of therapeutic radiation,and although it has since been claimed that nasal radium treatment has causal connections to cancer, no studies have provided significant enough evidence to confirm this. Nasal imagery and references appear in his music and lyrics, as well as in the collage album covers created by his long-time collaborator Cal Schenkel. Zappa believed his childhood diseases may have been due to exposure to mustard gas, released by the nearby chemical warfare facility. His health worsened when he lived in Baltimore.In 1952, his family relocated for reasons of health. They next moved to Monterey, California, where his father taught metallurgy at the Naval Postgraduate School. They soon moved to Claremont, California, then to El Cajon, before finally settling in San Diego.[
Zappa recalled his parents being "pretty religious" and trying to make him go to Catholic school despite his resentment. Zappa showed disgust towards religion (Christianity in particular) because he believed that it promotes ignorance and anti-intellectualism.
Zappa earned widespread critical acclaim in his lifetime and after his death. The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) writes: "Frank Zappa dabbled in virtually all kinds of music—and, whether guised as a satirical rocker, jazz-rock fusionist, guitar virtuoso, electronics wizard, or orchestral innovator, his eccentric genius was undeniable." Even though his work drew inspiration from many different genres, Zappa was seen establishing a coherent and personal expression. In 1971, biographer David Walley noted that "The whole structure of his music is unified, not neatly divided by dates or time sequences and it is all building into a composite".On commenting on Zappa's music, politics and philosophy, Barry Miles noted in 2004 that they cannot be separated: "It was all one; all part of his 'conceptual continuity'."
Frank Zappa in 1977
Guitar Player devoted a special issue to Zappa in 1992, and asked on the cover "Is FZ America's Best Kept Musical Secret?" Editor Don Menn remarked that the issue was about "The most important composer to come out of modern popular music". Among those contributing to the issue was composer and musicologist Nicolas Slonimsky, who conducted premiere performances of works of Ives and Varèse in the 1930s. He became friends with Zappa in the 1980s, and said, "I admire everything Frank does, because he practically created the new musical millennium. He does beautiful, beautiful work ... It has been my luck to have lived to see the emergence of this totally new type of music." Conductor Kent Nagano remarked in the same issue that "Frank is a genius. That's a word I don't use often ... In Frank's case it is not too strong ... He is extremely literate musically. I'm not sure if the general public knows that." Pierre Boulez stated in Musician magazine's posthumous Zappa tribute article that Zappa "was an exceptional figure because he was part of the worlds of rock and classical music and that both types of his work would survive."
In 1994, jazz magazine Down Beat 's critics poll placed Zappa in its Hall of Fame.Zappa was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. There, it was written that "Frank Zappa was rock and roll's sharpest musical mind and most astute social critic. He was the most prolific composer of his age, and he bridged genres—rock, jazz, classical, avant-garde and even novelty music—with masterful ease". He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.In 2005, the U.S. National Recording Preservation Board included We're Only in It for the Money in the National Recording Registry as "Frank Zappa's inventive and iconoclastic album presents a unique political stance, both anti-conservative and anti-counterculture, and features a scathing satire on hippiedom and America's reactions to it". The same year, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him at No. 71 on its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2011, he was ranked at No. 22 on the list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time by the same magazine.
Information and photo Credit: wikipedia.org